IoS paperback review: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, By Oliver Burkeman

Self help for those who refuse to look on the bright side of life

Burkeman goes back to the Stoics to try to assess why we feel the need for self-help books, and whether constant self-improvement of the spiritual or psychological kind is actually doing us more harm than good.

He has plenty of evidence to back up his claims which he cites with clarity and humour, without patronising or dismissing out of hand those practitioners of happiness: Descartes and Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now are examined in conjunction, for instance, and Burkeman gamely tries out one test of facing your fears: reading out loud each station on the London Underground just before the train stops. The fear of appearing mad to one's fellow travellers is greater, he discovers, than the reality.

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